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A message from Vicki Caldwell, Fi's Mum and founding trustee

Why I am taking part in FEES Fund 26.20 Challenge ...

I wanted to share some background of why I have chosen to Swim 26.2 miles in Hutton Moor swimming pool as my personal challenge in September and in support of FEES Fund and our truly inspiring London Marathon runners Ben and Saskia.

Ben and Saskia have been keen supporters of FEES Fund from the beginning. They joined the Ten tors challenge in March 2017 that helped to launch FEES Fund and at their wedding in 2019 they encouraged their guests to make a donation to FEES Fund rather than buy gifts. It was such an achievement when FEES Fund gained a small charities ballot place for the 2020 London marathon and our fundraising opportunity increased when Saskia won a ballot place and agreed to also run as newlyweds for FEES Fund. Our runners have continued to train throughout the pandemic and kept their fitness levels strong throughout even when so much uncertainty existed around the rescheduling of the postponed 2020 London Marathon. It was with much excitement and anticipation when the date of the rescheduled event was announced as Sunday 3rd Oct 2021 a whole 18 months later than originally anticipated.

When Fi died suddenly in March 2016, it was a truly unbearable time for me and all her family and friends. We were all in shock for so long. How could such a vibrant, talented young life end so suddenly and so abruptly. Fi died just before her 18th Birthday she was on the cusp of adulthood and had such an exciting time planned after her ‘big’ birthday and A-levels. The summer of fun plans included travel and festivals before the much anticipated (finally) leaving home to go to university in the autumn to study Geography.

How do you adjust as a mother when your child dies so suddenly and unexpectedly? When her sparkle and positive energy is no longer physically present enriching your life. The sadness and heaviness of grief is overwhelming and having to build a new way of living feels very scary and creates uncertainty. What I have learnt is that you can’t do such a huge adjustment on your own, you need the support and kindness of others who are willing to join you on the journey, helping to channel the grief and sadness into something positive that will have impact and help with keeping Fi’s memory and energy present.

The Idea of FEES (Fi’s enrichment Education Support) Fund came from Fi’s love of learning and her desire to make the world a kinder and fairer place. Fi had ambitions to be a civil servant and aspired to have influence in shaping government policy to improve social justice and create opportunity for social mobility. She was shocked at her Oxford University interview by how few other candidates attended state schools and was disappointed that many of her equally bright state school peers had not made Oxbridge application or were aiming high and applying to top universities.

Fi gained her confidence and strong self-belief after successfully completing the Dartmoor 10 Tors 36 miles challenge just before her 14th Birthday. After this she believed anything was possible if you pushed yourself, worked hard and drew on support when needed. Fi was the only girl in her team of 6 scouts. They walked for two days, carrying all the equipment needed to survive on the moor. What an achievement to cross the finish line and how accessible this activity was made by the opportunity to use the borrowed and recycled kit needed via the scouting community. There had been 6 months of training and many new skills learnt all thanks to the kind volunteer scout leaders who helped to create life changing opportunities for the young people involved.

FEES Fund set up in memory of Fiona Braidwood is a registered education charity that provides grant funding three times per year (Oct, Jan and April) so children and young people can take part in extracurricular enrichment activities that will support a love of learning. FEES Fund aims to remove the financial barriers that can exist for children and young people from state schools who live in families where money is tight to take part in extracurricular activities that builds friendships and communities. FEES Fund provides grants for school trips, afterschool and community clubs memberships, music lessons, arts and sports activities and equipment’s. FEES Fund grants aims to make lifelong memories and also help build talents, skills and confidence.

I want to demonstrate my support to the very special charity set up in memory of my daughter Fi. The pandemic has had such an impact on children and young people’s opportunity to take part in enrichment activities and have fun. More children and young people are now living in families where money is tighter following the pandemic

I am proud to be the founding Trustee of FEES Fund and want to say a huge thank to Ben and Saskia for agreeing to run the London Marathon in support of FEES Fund and to everyone else who has agreed to take part in their own or team 26.20 challenges. It’s been inspiring hearing everyone’s plans and I am sure our runners will feel the energy that is being created in support as they face the start line on Sunday 3rd Oct.

For me the decision and setting of a FEES Fund 26.20 challenge came easily. I committed to swim just over a mile a day (haha AND the .2) for 26 days at my local pool and Get fit for Fi. I have always enjoyed swimming; my only childhood regret is I never got to join swim club! I’m already well into my challenge. I completed day 10 this morning. What the ‘Fast lane early morning swimmers at Hutton Moor’ have taught me is it’s never too late to follow your ambitions of being part of a swim community. They have invited me to join in on their “sets”, I have been introduced to ‘’pyramid” and received coaching on stroke technique and advice on how to swim my mile faster. Hutton Moor is where Fi learnt to swim, had birthday parties and where she worked as a lifeguard. She attended early morning training there just before her accident. Swimming is calming and helps me feel close to Fi. I think she would be very proud of how I am pushing myself out of my usual swim comfort zone, how I am getting involved in the 26.20 challenge, having fun and encouraging others to do the same.

So what will be your 26.20 Challenge? I would like to invite you to take on your own personal challenge. For a £26.20 donation to FEES Fund (or as much as you like to donate or raise of course!), we are inviting you to take on your challenge of choice during September. This can be anything you want to try, or perhaps to do more regularly – it can be 26.2 minutes or hours of bouncing, skipping, drawing, sewing, reading, meditating etc or it can 26.2 miles of a swim, walk, run or cycle etc – you choose!

Either do it as a daily challenge or broken into chunks over the course of the month or even shared between friends. The end of the challenge is the 3rd October – the day our runners take the start line.

Share your progress using the hashtag #2620challenge and tell everyone you know what you’re doing, ask them to join us or to support by donating to our fundraising page Ben and Saskia Run for FEES Fund

Good luck everyone on your 26.20 challenges don’t forget to post photos using the #2620challenge and tag @feesfund on instagram with your 2620 challenge progress

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